Better, More Relevant and More Fun
I can now say with confidence that the Emmys under-recognized the first season of GLOW, the brilliant comedy-drama on Netflix about the makings of the eponymous women’s wrestling series of the 1980s. Sure, it got eight nominations, but there was nothing for Alison Brie and Marc Maron, the forces of nature that really command the series. I was only willing to not castigate the Emmys for the utter rarity of not giving enough awards to a Netflix series, but I held because I figured the show would get more chances. And based on what I’ve seen of Season 2, the actors and writers are going to get a lot more of them.
When Season 1 came to a close, all of the chaos and confusion that had plagued the characters seemed to come to an end when the pilot of the series finally managed to get filmed. Now that the show is officially underway, everybody is working towards making it work, and Sam (Maron) seems determined to become even more of an asshole than he could be during production. The relationship that he spent the majority of Season 1 building with Ruth (Brie) seems utterly non-existent (at least throughout the first three episodes), and he seems to be determined to act like even more of a prick towards the women who are making this series work. He doesn’t like being controlled by anybody, and its clear that he’s not used to any kind of success. The fact that he now has to raise a teenage daughter (as was revealed at the end of last season) isn’t helping his state of mind, either.
As for the relationship between Ruth and Debbie (Betty Gilpin, still remarkable), Ruth is trying as hard as possible to work her way back into her best friend’s good graces. This isn’t helped by the fact that Debbie’s marriage is now officially kaput, or that the last act of her husband was to negotiate a contract where Debbie is now a producer of the series. Neither Sam nor Bash seem determined to take her job that seriously, and its very striking that these two men, who have been nothing but cheerleaders for the women of this show so far, fall back to the traditional sexist roles as far as having a woman work with them. But Debbie is far too smart for that, and seems to finding a way to work slowly into their graces. However, just when she reaches the border of being a little too likable, she goes out of her way to sabotage Ruth. Ruth has been working towards having a relationship with a cameraman on the show, but given the chance to have a real date or try to make her friendship work with Ruth, she opts for the latter, and its devastating when Debbie reveals that the whole thing was a sham.
For all the portrayals of darkness that the series is willing to play into, GLOW is, first and foremost, a comedy. And a lot of the time, it can be very funny. This can be particularly remarkable when the women are trying to stage their wrestling acts for the camera using the personas they spent most of the season developing. A particularly engaging sequence came when two of the women played elderly characters, then used one of their matches to mutate into younger radioactive fighters — “We couldn’t be old biddies any longer.” And all of the actors on these series are exceptional at giving fully rounded characters. The series will show Sam being snide to the network and everybody else, and reluctant to help a friend — in this case, Cherry, who is currently being written out of the show she got last season — and then, he will be supportive and instructive to her, and go to the mat to get her a soft landing. Maron really deserves an Emmy nomination this year. I’m saying this now so they don’t forget.
I will now officially say something I neglected to last year when I had the opportunity: GLOW is one of the best series on any platform. Considering it’s a Jenji Kohan show, and I haven’t liked much of her work before this, this is a huge admission for me. And considering how much the last few months have redefined the gender wars, we need shows like this now more than ever. Of course, we also need shows like this because they’re funny and entertaining. And also to remind us that wrestling, while not a sport, is still a kind of art.
My score: 4.75 stars.